Unfortunately for Kelly Bryant, the only statistic in Clemson’s official release he was mentioned in, following this past Saturday’s stadium scrimmage in Death Valley, involved a 50-yard interception return by safety Tanner Muse. However, the negative play was not Bryant’s fault.
Muse’s interception was a result of a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage when the defensive end, which was not identified, was not cut. Following the scrimmage, despite the first-team offense’s inability to get into any kind of rhythm, Bryant was praised by both head coach Dabo Swinney and co-offensive coordinator Tony Elliott.
They both said none of the offense’s issues had anything to do with Bryant. It was his teammates that weren’t getting it done, and the fact they had to go up against the first-team defense, which returns seven starters from a unit that led the ACC in total and scoring defense in 2016 and was ranked 8th and 10th nationally in both categories.
Swinney said after the scrimmage he was pleased with Bryant’s decision making. Elliott said the same. What does that mean? It means, after one scrimmage, Bryant still has the lead in the race to be Clemson’s new starting quarterback.
As for the other guys in the competition, Zerrick Cooper threw a touchdown pass to Diondre Overton, while Hunter Johnson threw a 23-yard scoring-pass to walk-on receiver Carter Groomes.
However, you have to understand the context and the situations of their performances. Cooper’s score came against the second-team defense, while Johnson’s was against the third-team, who busted the coverage and left Groomes wide open for an easy throw and score.
With that said Clemson’s coaches were pleased with the way both of their young quarterbacks played, as they thought all the quarterbacks played well in the scrimmage and did a good job making decisions. Cooper’s performance was praised by both Swinney and Elliott.
However from what we heard, neither Cooper nor Johnson appeared to make a push at the job this weekend. Bryant appears to still have the lead to be the Tigers’ new starting quarterback when they kick off the season on Sept. 2 against Kent State.
The one factor that came up this weekend when comparing the three quarterbacks was who they were competing against. With the exception of one series, Bryant took all of his snaps against the first-team defense, while Cooper and Johnson shared second- and third-team reps.
The question is do the coaches try to level the playing field this week and sees how the younger quarterbacks do against the first-team defense? In other words, give Cooper and Johnson some first-team snaps. See if their decision making is the same, better or worse than Bryant’s.
It will definitely give the coaches an opportunity to have a true evaluation and could give them a better marker for who truly is making the right decisions and is more consistent. In turn it could help decide who will be Clemson’s No. 1 quarterback.
Going into Week 3 of training camp, it still appears to be Kelly Bryant.
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